Children’s Electronic Literature in Finland


By Paula Hakola, Raine Koskimaa & Katri Niskanen

Traditionally, Finland has been a country of avid readers and library users. The number of titles and copies of books published annually is very high, especially when looked at per capita. Many of the books published are translations (in recent decades, increasingly from English), but the share of Finnish titles remains high. A number of Finnish authors have broken through to the international market, and many of them are authors of children’s literature, the best known example being Tove Jansson with her Moomin books.

In the digitalization of literature, however, Finland has not been anywhere near to the front runners.  In 2013, only some 30% of all new book titles were available as e-books, and the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Library System housed a total of 70 e-book titles for children. There are no comprehensive listings of so-called enriched e-books (or, apps) available, and the libraries mainly do not have them in their collections at all, because of technical and IPR issues.

The history of Finnish electronic literature started with poetry generators programmed for PC’s by Arto Kytöhonka in 1980’s, and in 1990’s a few WWW-based literary works – both fiction and poetry – were published. These works were mainly self-published by the authors, and many of the early works are no longer available.

During 1990’s also multimedia works on CD-ROM were published, often by major publishing houses. Some of these titles were aimed at children, and probably the most popular ones were multimedia adaptations of the Moomin picture books, with various interactive and game elements. These titles were also purchased by libraries, and some of them are still available for browsing in the library computers.

In the 2000’s, there have been some experiments with electronic publishing, such as print-on-demand childrens’ books where the names of the main characters could be selected by the customer, and print books with online extensions. There could be additional materials related to the book, or reader discussion forums linked to the book. Karikko (The Reef) by Seita Vuorela (Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize 2013) as well as some other Vuorela’s  young adult novels (written together with Niina Repo) have had a related website.

DibiTassut (The DibiTales) is a cartoon series, with the original storyline written by the well-known author Tuija Lehtinen, and the further story development crowd-sourced to the audience globally.  As part of the DibiTassut franchise, some experiments with augmented reality have been conducted. One of the DibiTales books, as well as a few magazines with DibiTales related content, included a QR code, which allowed the reader to see and interact with a 3D DibiTales character through a web camera and a laptop.

Aleksi Delikouras’ Nörtti (The Nerd), a series of three novels, was initiated as a series of highly popular Youtube videos, before being turned into novels as well. The connection between the online videos and the novels has created a phenomenon in Finland, bringing many such kids into reading who otherwise would probably not have taken a book in their hands.

In recent years, a small selection of (more or less) interactive applications for tablet devices with literary content for kids has been produced and published. Some of the best known and most popular Finnish authors (Tove Jansson, Mauri Kunnas, Aino Havukainen & Sami Toivonen, Timo Parvela) are involved, but the marketing of the apps has been very low-key. In 2013 Lasten Keskus, a publisher specializing in children’s literature, launched their Lasten e-Tarinat (Children’s e-Stories) Platform, which is an integrated book shop and reading application for iPad. Lasten Keskus has also collaborated with the international Tapisodes developer (eg. Isän poika [Papa’s Boy] by Leevi & Jukka Lemmetty).

In Memoriam Seita Vuorela 1971-2015